South Prince of Wales Island - Part 5

8/19: Tombolo Camp to Hessa Inlet - Day Trip

Our day was planned with the tide. In order to enter Hessa Inlet we would need to time the tide correctly with an early start. We woke at 5:45 and rushed through breakfast, took a quick stock of our lunch supply and made a mental note to bring more staples on the next trip, tortillas maybe.

We paddled north along familiar islands in a new order. The sun rose over head and we began hopping from one shade patch to another until we entered the inlet. Paddling slowly, we enjoyed the space which seemed remote and removed from the landscape we had explored so far.

Sandhill cranes called out and we listened to their ancient sound echo until it was met with a distant response. We continued on where we saw a small deer leap down from the beach and swim across a channel of water to a nearby island. We drifted further as a family of river otters scampered up rocks and slipped into the forest. The inlet was rich in wildlife sightings.

 The sun rises slowly and glitters in the water.

The sun rises slowly and glitters in the water.

 Aaron and Nate paddle north towards Hessa.

Aaron and Nate paddle north towards Hessa.

 Kim enjoys a calm and peaceful morning paddle.

Kim enjoys a calm and peaceful morning paddle.

 The mouth of Hessa Inlet.

The mouth of Hessa Inlet.

The tide was changing and we determined that a full exploration of the inlet would not be possible. A beach with water access was spotted across the far-side of Hessa where were refilled our supply of water and grabbed a snack.

As I ate my bar, I walked along the beach looking under driftwood for an elusive glass ball. My ball success rate was zero, but I was happily surprised when I found a cracked whale vertebra. Kim called out to us saying that there were more bones on the far-side of the long beach. We paddled over to a rocky beach where we found ribs, vertebra, a jaw bone - likely from a small humpback whale.

Aaron caught our attention as he lifted his hand in a victorious gesture to show off a beautiful teal-blue glass ball. He found one! He joked that it was in plain sight on a bed of beach grass and that the best way to find a ball is to not look for it. The rare object created a searching frenzy for the next hour as we bunny hopped beaches while towing our boats in an attempt to cash in on our own good fortune to find another ball. Wayne helped me identify glass ball hot spots, but Aaron was the only one to take home a souvenir.

 Barnacles, Andis, and Whale Bones.

Barnacles, Andis, and Whale Bones.

 Vertebra cracked and aged.

Vertebra cracked and aged.

 A major highlight of our trip! A hand-blown glass ball. This ball was likely created aboard a fishing boat in Japan decades ago. Broken from the net, it drifted at sea until landing in Alaska. So good!

A major highlight of our trip! A hand-blown glass ball. This ball was likely created aboard a fishing boat in Japan decades ago. Broken from the net, it drifted at sea until landing in Alaska. So good!

 Seeking shade after a beautiful, sunny, hot day on the water. We joked often that in coming to Alaska we had not prepared ourselves for this many nice days.

Seeking shade after a beautiful, sunny, hot day on the water. We joked often that in coming to Alaska we had not prepared ourselves for this many nice days.

The sun was quite hot and so we sought out shade as we left Hessa. While we broke for lunch, Wayne tucked into the forest. He invited us into the forest to show us a stand of large cedar trees which included several Culturally Modified Trees. A large living camp tree had the markings of kindling cut from the trunk and a deep hollow inside charred from a large fire. Wayne is a retired anthropologist for Glacier Bay National Park and his natural curiosity lead us to find some powerful historic spaces along our journey. We were visitors in a very special place.

 Wayne in the woods.

Wayne in the woods.

 Wayne shares his knowledge of Culturally Modified Trees and the importance of trees such as this one.

Wayne shares his knowledge of Culturally Modified Trees and the importance of trees such as this one.

 Tall Cedars. As a designated Wilderness Area, we were able to enjoy forested land that had not been logged.

Tall Cedars. As a designated Wilderness Area, we were able to enjoy forested land that had not been logged.

 Wayne, Nate, and Kim.

Wayne, Nate, and Kim.

 Opalescent Nudibrach feeding on Hydroid among the kelp bed. Andis spotted this incredible nudibrach as well as a Hooded Nudibrach as relaxed on a bed of kelp. We also spotted some beautifully camouflaged shrimp as they darted among the kelp.

Opalescent Nudibrach feeding on Hydroid among the kelp bed. Andis spotted this incredible nudibrach as well as a Hooded Nudibrach as relaxed on a bed of kelp. We also spotted some beautifully camouflaged shrimp as they darted among the kelp.

 Aaron and Andis paddle past a fishing tender.

Aaron and Andis paddle past a fishing tender.

We saw very few people during our ten day trip. While we camped at Douglass Island we saw several fishing boats and tenders who were also anchored in the protected waters as they completed their fishing seasons. Otherwise, we were on our own in the grand landscape.

After returning to camp I took a short walk in the woods behind our tent. Twisted cedars rose high in the sky with large beds of moss and ferns covering the forest floor. I enjoyed having a moment alone to sit in the beauty of these ancient forests.

 Twisted cedars on Douglass.

Twisted cedars on Douglass.

 Chip marks on a cedar tree.

Chip marks on a cedar tree.

 Detail of the chips and cut marks.

Detail of the chips and cut marks.

Our tent was nestled on a small bed of moss between three massive trees. A cedar, hemlock, and spruce. The close proximity and scale made it difficult to photograph the three together. I simply held my camera and moved in a circle looking up towards the boughs and sunlight to capture a portrait of each massive tree.

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